It’s estimated 100 million Americans go boating each year! These boating enthusiasts come from all walks of life and areas of the country and include every generation. And in 2020, they collectively spent nearly $50 billion on boats, marine products, and services, making boating the largest outdoor recreational activity in the U.S.
Catering to Multiple Boating Generations
We live in a diverse world with five generally accepted generations: the Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Each group has its boating fans, but that doesn’t mean they all want the same things from their boating experiences.
The Millennial Wave
Millennials, or those born between 1981 and 1997, are the country’s largest living generation. While it’s true that the white male Boomer has been the core of the boating industry for decades, the Millennial market is one not to be ignored. Millennials love boating, too; they just want to experience it differently from their parents. In other words, it’s all about the ride.
No other generation’s buying habits or earnings potential has been scrutinized quite like the Millennials. They’re notorious for putting off major purchases like homes, so it stands to reason they’ve been slow to enter the boating industry as customers. But as financial issues like significant student debt that delayed their purchasing power are becoming less of an obstacle, older Millennials, in particular, have become an attractive and significant generation to cater to.
Builders, dealers, and distributors are all adapting to Millennial preferences so they can appeal to this new generation of prospective buyers. How? They’re:
- Emphasizing the boating experience. Millennials are known to value experiences over owning things. They participate in the gig and sharing economies in huge numbers and often forego investing in luxury cars. But because they like experience-oriented pastimes, they tend to enjoy things like boating clubs and boating-related activities that feature competitions or thrill-seeking. Boat clubs, in particular, are valuable in attracting future boat buyers, as they allow Millennials to pursue the boating lifestyle without having to first make a major investment in a boat.
- Making the process a courtship. If Millennials know they don’t have to immediately buy a boat to enjoy water recreation, they can spend time falling in love with boating, developing their “water gene,” and gradually warming to the idea of a boat purchase.
- Marketing boats as a tool for entertainment. Many Millennials crave fast-paced lifestyles. Getting from point A to point B is less important than what happens between launch and docking. Along with kayaking and paddleboarding, they love boat-based activities like tubing, waterskiing, and wakeboarding, which can act as springboards into the boating lifestyle.
- Prioritizing sustainability. The most environmentally-conscious generation, Millennials are extremely picky about the products and services they invest in. Advancements like quiet and clean engines satisfy the generation’s demands for sustainable solutions while delivering the high-speed performance they also crave.
The boating industry is also embracing digital technologies for marketing marine products and services to Millennials. Social media is a powerful tool for spreading the word on the benefits and enjoyment of boating, with likes, retweets, and shares making their way across the country in a matter of minutes.
Baby Boomers Love to Cruise
Don’t get us wrong, Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) love speed, too. And they’re still helping to shape the future of boating and, just like Millennials, are asking for more from their boating experiences. A 2005 study led by Age Wave found that 65% of Boomers said they wanted and expected to live an adventurous retirement. Many of them dream of cruising the Great Loop, which is made up of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Hudson River, the Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage Canals, the Illinois River, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
As the generation famous for redefining and reinventing itself, Boomer boaters love spending time with family but also enjoy the feeling of freedom they get when out on the water. Boating keeps them engaged, moving, and open to forming new friendships, three traits essential to a healthy later life. Boating is an active endeavor that provides older Americans with the opportunity to explore a far different world than the one they get landside.
Whether they’re day cruising on a Mystic M3800 or M4200 center console or taking to the water in our C4000 high-powered sport catamaran, boating is popular with Boomers because it’s a lifestyle that’s attainable, speaks to their independent streak, and meets their desire for travel and enjoyable social experiences.
Gen X: Boating’s Sweet Spot
If you’re a fan of the movie “Network,” or even if you’ve never seen it, you’re likely familiar with the film’s famous line, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” That’s how many Gen Xers feel about being left out of the generational equation, boating or otherwise.
It seems every day there are studies and articles published about Boomers and Millennials. But those born from 1965 to 1980 are in a much better position financially and emotionally to invest in powerboats, accessories, and services. Aged 41 to 56, this generation represents the sweet spot for the recreational boating industry. Like Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers have different demands and desires from their boating lifestyle. They also look at the world in a different way.
A much more diverse generation than Boomers or the Silent Generation, Gen Xers have the highest education levels. And while they make less money in real dollars than their parents did at their age, they have higher household incomes because they tend to live in 2-income homes. They’re also more technologically savvy than Boomers and believe in actions over words. How does that influence their boating experiences?
Tech-savvy and possessing the most spending power, the entertainment generation expects the boating lifestyle to be brought to them, not the other way around. And if they’re going to invest a lot of their money in a boat, they want it to be different from what everyone else has. Custom-built powerboats meet their demands for individualization and personalization and deliver the technical advancements they expect from having grown up in the digital era.
Boating Activities for Any Age
When it comes to boating, it’s easy for any generation to dive into the action. There are fun and relaxing activities for every age, every skill level, and every interest.
Everyone’s a kid-at-heart when it comes to activities like tubing or water target games. For those who prefer something a bit more challenging, there’s waterskiing, wake surfing, and wakeboarding. Others just want to float peacefully while soaking up the rays and taking an occasional swim. Whatever gets your adrenalin pumping or calms your mind, there’s an on-water experience or boating activity that’s right for you.
A few of our favorites include:
- Boat “camping” under the stars is an incredible experience for any age. And the further away from shore you get, the more stars and constellations you’ll be able to see.
- Attending a concert by boat. Many cities and coastal towns have music venues near the water, and many marinas arrange musical entertainment all year long. Why not give “rocking the boat” a whole new meaning?
- “Boatgating” before a sporting event taking place close to a marina. It’s a whole lot better than sitting in traffic or circling for a parking lot space.
- Golfing on a boat with biodegradable golf balls! These golf balls are made especially for boaters and turn into fish food once they hit the water.
- Sightseeing from the water. Leave crowded streets and venues to traditional tourists and explore your favorite destinations by boat.
- Dock-and-dine outings. Take a break from grilling and cooking onboard and instead order take-away from your favorite dockside restaurant.
- Sunrise or sunset cruises offer two views of the water that can’t be experienced from shore.
Any one of these activities offers a boatload of fun for boat enthusiasts of all ages.
Introducing New Boaters to the Boating Lifestyle
There are plenty of ideas for encouraging younger generations to get out on the water. For instance, they can:
- Volunteer as crew. You can usually find listings on yacht club bulletin boards and websites.
- Join a yacht club that has boats members can use.
- Live aboard a boat in a marina.
- Join a boat share club to meet other boaters and rent boats whenever the timing’s right.
- Take a learn-to-powerboat course.
Current boat owners can help newcomers get the most out of their on-water adventures by:
- Sharing their knowledge and offering advice, encouragement, and hands-on help.
- Teaching about the importance of boat safety.
- Introducing younger generations to the joy of boating. Boomers can invite Millennials and Gen Xers out for an afternoon on the water and help them catch the boating bug.
The Future of Boating at Any Age
Boating’s appeal transcends age. Millennials and Gen Xers love boating for most of the same reasons their parents and grandparents did and do. They love the opportunity it gives them to socialize with friends, create family memories, and head off on adventures unknown. Most of all, perhaps, they love how it allows them to unplug, at least for a while, from work and the world at large.
Boating is not likely to lose its attraction as younger generations come of age. As buying a boat becomes more of a financial possibility, it has the potential for a watershed moment among Millennials and Gen Xers, as they come to see boating as part of an enjoyable lifestyle. While these “kids” will continue to embrace the concepts behind the sharing economy, tiny homes, minimalism, and location-independent work lives, they’ll also see how boating fits in with their desire for a more sustainable and socially conscious way of life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media and other digital channels continue to introduce boating to younger newcomers. A quick browse on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tik-Tok reveals a digital landscape filled with high-performance powerboats, sailing-lifestyle vlogs, poker runs, and more. This mainstreaming of the boating life will undoubtedly spark interest in a whole new generation of boaters and create an ever-widening ripple (if not wave) of younger people making their way to the water.
Ultimately, Millennials and Gen Xers encourage ingenuity and innovation in the boating industry. State-of-the-art technologies like sound systems and sleek looks that feature bold colors and bright stripes are being used to attract and answer to younger generations’ demands and making boat ownership more desirable.
The Mystic Lifestyle can be one of the most enjoyable and satisfying investments you can make. Each of our custom powerboats includes all the amenities of home, including climate control, advanced sound systems, comfortable lounges, loads of on-deck seating, and fully-equipped galleys. In short, your custom-designed and built Mystic powerboat has just about everything you need to fully enjoy the boating life.
Are you ready to start cruising and entertaining guests on a world-class luxury boat? Our M3800 and M4200 center consoles have you covered. They’re two of the finest luxury powerboats on the market and can be customized to meet all your boating. Contact us online today to learn more and to schedule a personal consultation.